Interview Emily Molnar

Text: Gusta Winnubst
Photography: Sacha Grootjans & Rahi Rezvani 

Since her arrival two years ago, Artistic Director Emily Molnar, together with Managing Director Willemijn Maas and the entire company, has worked hard to create a new culture at NDT. With collaboration, curiosity, innovation and connection as core values, there has been a shift in thinking and the company’s everyday practice. For Molnar, it is not only the result that counts, but the process towards it as well, in which everyone who works at NDT contributes an equally important role.

Emily Molnar

We work together

“Things are more interesting when you collaborate. I discovered that working with choreographers at a very young age,” says Emily Molnar.” At 16, I graduated and immediately received an apprenticeship with the National Ballet of Canada under the artistic direction of Reid Anderson. Within a month William Forsythe came to create a new ballet, saw me working in the studio and cast me. When I was 21 years old, he invited me to join Frankfurt Ballet. I have always worked hard, but you also need people to believe in you and give you opportunities. That’s exactly what I aim to do with the dancers at NDT: I want to challenge them artistically and encourage them to keep trusting, learning and taking risks. Through a safe and supportive space, I want them to feel they have agency in their practice, that they are co-creators in the development of the work and the future of the company.”

During the most challenging time imaginable, the corona pandemic, Molnar started at NDT. “A difficult time, but Corona also gave us  permission to pause and reflect on our relationship to time and the way we live our lives. The closing of theaters also caused us to question how we were working and where we wanted to go. My artistic vision for NDT encourages research, creativity and inquiry as a priority, the process is just as important as the result. Collaboration and curiosity are vital in the process, and the process takes time. We create many new works, performances, and educational programs in a season, to be creative it is important that we keep letting ourselves feel the freedom to experiment and try something we don’t understand, only then do you get to the core of the potential of someone or something. Everyone already comes in here with a tremendous amount of passion, expertise, and natural talent. That’s a given. Our job is to create an environment that is innovative, where we can investigate our practice, research new ideas, and where we can work together on a deeper level. That applies not only to the dancers but essentially to everyone at NDT, throughout all the departments: we do it together. It is about the potential of the company as one voice, a passionate house for research and creation, that is filled with many unique individual voices.”

The process is just as important as the result.

We innovate

“An innovative process is about collaborating with others with diverse perspectives in an ecology of discovery and learning. I find inspiration everywhere. Keeping your mind flexible, looking at an idea from different angles, experimentation, disrupting something and allowing play into the process, that’s the basis of innovation. With NDT, I see us not as a house of production, but as a house of creation. When I started with the company, we had just turned 60 years old. To move forward, I feel it is important to know where you are coming from. I decided to look closely at the company’s legacy.  Who were we 60 years ago? What was the spirit of our founders when they started NDT? I kept imagining the feeling of those pioneering years and sensed, that is the energy, the urgency that we need every day in the studio, and in the company at large, even at 60 years old. When I started inviting people to let the process become as important as the result, the counterargument I received was, “Yeah but Emily, we have a certain standard here.”

“It goes without saying,” says Molnar “that excellence is a prerequisite in all that we do but a person striving for excellence needs to be motivated, nurtured and allowed the freedom to try new things. To encourage this means we must be rigorous with our practice, our learning, our openness and with our respect for each other. Change is always difficult, that’s human nature. It takes time to establish a new way of working, it takes trust, commitment and the desire to listen. We are a collective, and every individual at NDT has priority. That was new to some people. Now that we’re a little further along, I can feel and see the change and that is inspiring for the future.”

As a company we believe that every person deserves to experience the joy of art and that today more than ever we need a variety of forms of expression to help us explore and understand the world.

We are curious

“Due to the closing of theaters during the pandemic, we couldn’t perform or tour for long periods of time.. We used that time to workshop new skills, investigate our practice, build special projects, and expand our creation time with makers. We created the film Mist, a unique multidisciplinary collaboration with French-Belgian choreographer Damien Jalet, visual artist Kohei Nawa and photographer/videographer Rahi Rezvani. We made two new site-specific works that were performed in alternative locations such as Kunstmuseum, Museum Voorlinden and the Grote Kerk in Veere . We started live streaming and with that, we reached audiences in 97 countries. Imagine: even in Afghanistan, where we have never been before. Through this digital platform, we reached new and young audiences worldwide. We could never have done all that if it had been a normal season of performances and touring. And, for that matter, it would also not have been possible without the additional financial support from the Dutch government for the arts and cultural sector. This adventure of being flexible and adaptive got me thinking about how we can work differently and seek out new audiences and partnerships. How can we go to an audience or into a community, instead of them having to come to us? We can now reach 30 dancers in Cape Town in a Zoom class. We already have an extensive Talent Development & Education program, but we can expand that with satellite projects like this. I see these projects as part of a larger research engine, which suits our role as a house of creation.”


Projects like the Open Space, a two-week research laboratory with NDT 2 in collaboration with our partner Korzo, are fantastic testing grounds. It is part of Molnar’s developing vision for a longer-term goal of the ‘NDT Lab’, a research center connected to the company. Creating an adjunct multidisciplinary environment for research and dialogue between our artists, artistic community and other creative thinkers (such as our exchange with astronomers at the Leiden Observatory or the Mobility Society at TU Delft), that produces opportunities for advanced learning. Some of these experiments may not lead to new work but are a great source of inspiration and skill development for future ideas and new approaches. Interdisciplinary collaboration is a great way to be and stay curious. Sharing knowledge and intelligence. You could call it an ecological development of NDT and a way for us to be participating in a larger exchange and support system for our creative sector.”


NDT values collaboration, curiosity, innovation, and community.

We seek connection

As an international company dedicated to dance and the development of the arts, NDT has a responsibility to society. “We have a comprehensive program for young people and professionals with our Talent Development & Education. We help ignite their creativity, interest in dance and awareness of the body-mind connection. Maybe twenty years from now they will go to the theater because they had that experience as a child. It’s a long-term approach to introduce as many people as possible, of all ages, to dance and to NDT. Democratizing dance is important to me and to the vision for dance I am trying to cultivate at NDT.  Through the Talent Development & Education program as well as our NDT 1 and 2 special projects, we go out to the public and share our creativity andexpertise. In addition, we help young professionals get started.”

Reaching as many people as possible, opening our doors, and continuing to think outside the box, for Molnar also means looking for new types of exchanges. With the talented Crystal Pite, for example. ”Her contract as an associate choreographer has been renewed in a collaborative effort with theater director Simon McBurney, together with his company Complicité. A unique partnership that brings together two disciplines with whom we will create three works over the next four years. Their first work, Figures in Extinction [1.0] was just awarded with a Swan (Zwaan) for most impressive dance production! This type of project will allow us to grow creatively in new and diverse directions.”


Emily Molnar has been devoting her life to dance for almost forty years. She was only 10 when she was accepted at one of the two prestigious schools in Canada, the National Ballet School in Toronto, a five hours’ flight distance from her family. “I grew up quickly because of it,” she says. She graduated at 16, was accepted to the National Ballet of Canada, and danced with the Frankfurt Ballet and Ballet BC in Canada. She then continued her career as choreographer and Artistic Director of Ballet BC in Vancouver. Her desire to expand the definition and impact of dance also reflects the role she took on alongside her job from 2014, as Artistic Director of Dance at the cultural education institute Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. In 2016, she was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada, one of the country’s highest honours. In 2020, she swapped Canada for The Hague, and is at the helm at NDT. “I feel at home here. I draw inspiration from all corners. I love to learn. I’m fascinated by life, by human expression, and all things creative. I’m curious what interests people, what motivates their minds and hearts.”

Emily Molnar